2012 STEM Summer Institute

Overview. The STEM Summer Institute ran June 18-29, 2012, 9AM-4PM each Monday through Friday and was held at The Harpeth Hall School. 


DSC03704_compressed.jpgRegistrants. The STEM Summer Institute exclusively served girls who had just finished 8th and 9th grade in Davidson County.  Every public high school in the Metropolitan Nashville Public School (MNPS) system was contacted about this program.  Applications were due March 16.  Twenty girls were accepted of whom sixteen attended (three chose not to participate and one moved to another city) from the following schools: 

Cameron Middle School
Franklin Road Academy
KIPP Academy
LEAD Academy
Overton High School
Rose Park Middle School
Smithson Craighead School

Snacks and lunch were included for participants.  Harpeth Hall busses were run on three routes to pick up all participants who requested it (15 of 16).


DSC02571_compressed.jpgCurriculum and Faculty.  The curriculum was based in both service learning and engineering design within a global context.  The Lwala Community Alliance "hired" the participants to improve the design of the tippy-tap handwashing stations used in their girls' schools in Kenya.  Participants used the engineering design process to manage the redesign along with appropriate scientific inquiry, statistical analyses, CAD drawings, and hands-on prototype building to accomplish this task.  We also did things to make this feel a bit more like a traditional camp - and not just academics – such as making homemade ice cream, making shrink-dinks, going to the playground, etc.  We also included topics like college planning and building up the girls’ social capital.


055_compressed.jpgUltimately the girls were highly successful in their improved tippy tap models.  Each group of girls created a scale-model using Google Sketchup before constructing their prototype.  The scale model was included along with their abbreviated version of the engineering design process on their scientific posters.  Each group created a thorough record of the engineering design work using the website InnovationPortal.org.  Each group also prepared an oral presentation and a video of their tippy tap in action.  These videos ran while the girls stood in front of the posters, giving their oral presentations, to judges, parents, and teachers from their home schools on the final engineering design competition day.  Among the judges were the leaders of the Lwala Community Alliance who had “hired” these girls.  They were very pleased with the final projects and took the winning design with them on their current trip to Kenya to evaluate its possible use in the schools.


DSC03774_compressed.jpgIn addition to Dr. Klein-Gardner, the faculty included 5 Harpeth Hall teachers (Yelena Janumyan – middle school science, Katherine Zimmer – upper school mathematics, Jennifer Webster – upper school mathematics, Gary Schott – upper school science, Lisa Keen – upper school science) as well as three biomedical engineers from Vanderbilt University (graduate students John Martin and Martina Miteva and professor Craig Duvall).  Over lunch and during some classes and the engineering design project judging, we included other STEM professionals such as Nissan VP Susan Brennan and VU civil engineering professor Janie Camp.


When the girls were asked, “What is the most interesting thing you remember learning at the STEM Summer Institute?”

  • “Well I have two interesting things that I learned from the STEM Summer Institute.  The first thing would be all of the water borne disease. I was not very educated on the topic of water borne diseases, but now I can say I have a knowledgeable base about them. It was surprising that I actually liked seeing the disgusting pictures of infected people. It was also nice knowing how the diseases are contracted.  Another interesting thing I remembered learning was how our waste water was sanitized the Metro Water Treatment Plant. I knew that our water was cleaned, I just didn't know the process of how it was done.”
  • “I will most remember how it was a nice environment to work in and also how i learned a lot of things”
  • “That Engineers Can Be Girls”
  • “I really enjoyed being in contact with the biomedical engineers and people who like Ms. Zimmerman who majored in math. It really gave me a scope on what I wanted to be involved in and what I should do to help me get to a certain career. I also enjoyed researching about the cactus aspect of my project. I probably would never have discovered the information without the STEM Summer Institute. I also did not know fully the need of the Kenyan people, and I am glad was able to educated about that subject.”